Every couple of weeks, it seems like the same question comes up: is this finally the time that Rory McIlroy turns his year around?
For a player who came into 2013 as the hottest player on the PGA Tour, it’s remarkable that we still feel like we have to ask that question at all. Still, here we are, a week away from the PGA Championship, and McIlroy has yet to show any of the greatness that propelled him to the No. 1 spot in the world at the end of last season.
To a degree, though, many observers feel that McIlroy is in a similar position now as he was last year. In 2012, McIlroy came into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational having missed the cut in three of his four prior PGA events, and with a lot of doubts about whether the young star could keep get his game back in shape. McIlroy himself readily admits as much.
“I was sitting up here this time last year probably not feeling as if my game was in great shape, and I’m sitting up here this year a lot more positive,” McIlroy told USA Today. “If something similar could happen like it did last year, get a good finish here or get into contention, obviously that would set me up for the last major of the season and going on from there, set me up for the great end of the year.”
Of course, last year, McIlroy tied for fifth at Firestone Country Club, and then went on to victory at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Actually, “win” almost isn’t a good enough term for what he did, since his eight-stroke win more than doubled up on second-place finisher David Lynn.
McIlroy is working on getting back to basics, recently working with swing coach Michael Bannon at home in Ireland, and meeting with putting coach Dave Stockton in Akron this week. While his game is clearly not in any type of shape as of late, his talent is undeniable. His return to top form will happen someday, but when will that be?
If it’s going to happen this year, this week at Firestone should be his best bet. Since the 75-player field won’t face any cut, McIlroy should be able to go out and play stress-free golf. He doesn’t need to win this week — and I don’t believe he will — but putting together four good rounds for really the first time since his runner-up at the Valero Texas Open would go a long way to getting back in shape.
The game is in there somewhere. Will he be able to do what it takes to get it back on the course? Only time will tell.